Two-Part Series: Group Fitness Trends
Part 1: Easy Does It
Why work out en masse instead of on your own? Unlike solo exercising, group
fitness provides motivation and social interaction, as well as personalized
instruction. And instruction is key when picking up something new. As the new
millennium approaches, interest is booming in the Far Eastern forms of
exercise, which are gentle and mindful of movement and total body conditioning.
Simultaneously, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there's a resurgence of
the hard-core, "no pain no gain"-style workouts of yesteryear. This
two-part series explores both trends in group fitness and guides you to styles
right for you. Look for Part Two in two weeks!
Yoga: Where Mind and Body Meet
Yoga, a discipline developed in India more than 5,000 years ago, is the
mother of all mind-body exercises. Yoga focuses on postures that heighten
awareness of the body, and it seeks to integrate mind and body. Yoga has many
varieties including ashtanga (a challenging power yoga), viniyoga (which is
slow and purposeful) and restorative yoga (which is very tranquil). The
movements of yoga help develop balance and flexibility and teach you how to
relax your mind and body. According to Donna Morton, a Los Angeles-based,
certified yoga instructor, "It's important to stay inwardly focused on each
position and listen to your body." In other words, pay attention to how
your body moves and feels during each movement instead of just focusing on a
result, such as beefed-up biceps.
Don't Get Caught in a Knot
One of the plusses of yoga is that it encourages you to work within your
body's abilities. Instead of trying to match what the person next to you is
doing or simply following the instructor, you'll learn to challenge yourself
without overstepping your capabilities. How do you know if you've hit a
boundary? Morton says, "Pain, shaking muscles or the desire to hold your
breath while performing the movements are signs that you're pushing yourself
Pilates: Healing and Stretching
Pilates, a movement therapy which combines stretching with proper alignment,
is lately attracting attention, but it has actually been around for some time.
It was created in the 1920s by German-born Joseph Pilates, who studied a number
of exercise forms, including yoga. Thanks to a background in engineering,
Pilates was able to design full-body workout equipment, which he used as
physical therapy for himself and others. More recently, Pilates has been
popularized by the dance world because of its emphasis on posture and
flexibility. Pilates addresses issues of injury prevention, correct breathing,
dynamic stretching (stretching while moving as opposed to stretching and
holding) and strengthening.
Into the Mainstream
Today Pilates is taught in settings ranging from fitness studios to huge
teaching hospitals. According to Los Angeles-based certified Pilates trainer
Carol Argo, "Pilates conditions the body from the inside out, focusing on
the center of the body, particularly the spine and the pelvic area."
Workouts can be taught in training sessions that use the Reformer, a piece of
Pilates equipment with a set of pulleys, or in classes that focus on floor
work, which requires no equipment. The Pilates method demands more personal
supervision than other exercise programs because precision is integral to the
movements. Avoid classes where the numbers are too large for the trainer to
advise students individually.